WAUKESHA — Incumbent Democrat Josh Kaul is seeking re-election as Wisconsin attorney general. His opponent is Republican Eric Toney.
The Freeman asked the candidates questions ahead of the general election on Nov. 8.
Freeman: What is your greatest achievement?
Kaul: I’m most proud of being a husband to my wonderful wife and a father to my two amazing sons. Professionally, I’m most proud of my record as attorney general of taking on tough issues and getting results that have a positive impact on Wisconsinites.
My administration has investigated and/or prosecuted some of the most serious offenses in the state, including homicides, sexual assaults, robberies, internet crimes against children, and drug trafficking. I worked with Democrats and
Republicans to get the law changed to help prevent a future backlog of untested sexual assault kits in Wisconsin, and my administration launched a statewide sexual assault kit tracking system. I’ve worked to hold opioid companies accountable for their role in the epidemic, and helped secure hundreds of millions of dollars to support the fight against that epidemic. My administration has helped make our schools safer, including by launching Speak Up, Speak Out, a statewide tipline that provides an option for reporting school safety concerns. My administration also has held polluters accountable, withdrew Wisconsin from the lawsuit seeking to end the Affordable Care Act, and successfully defended the will of Wisconsin voters in court following the 2020 presidential election.
Toney: I take great pride in my role as the Fond du Lac district attorney and the work my office does to keep families safe, enforce the rule of law, and remove dangerous criminals from our streets. I’m also the president of the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association, which is an honor and a commitment to represent frontline prosecutors across the state. As the son of a cop, I grew up with a deep appreciation for the sacrifices men and women in law enforcement make each day. It’s a great honor to be “Law Enforcement’s Choice” for attorney general. It’s an achievement to gain an unprecedented amount of support from more than 100 sheriffs, districts attorneys and police chiefs who’ve endorsed my campaign, including both Republicans and Democrats. I’m also blessed to have the endorsement of the Waukesha County district attorney and sheriff, as well as the Waukesha County Police Chiefs Association.
Freeman: What is your stance on setting cash bail for repeat offenders?
Kaul: We need to strengthen Wisconsin’s system for pretrial detention, and I believe we should use the federal system as a model. The focus of the federal system is where it should be — on whether a defendant is a danger to the public or a flight risk — and it much more readily allows for defendants to be detained prior to trial where appropriate to keep people safe.
Toney: We must change Wisconsin’s cash bail laws and our Constitution to force judges to consider the dangerousness of criminals when setting bail. We must also fix the statute that allows violent criminals to be held with no opportunity for bail so that the law can be used by prosecutors and judges. These changes to the law and Wisconsin Constitution will make significant strides in improving public safety in Wisconsin.
Like Mandela Barnes, Josh Kaul wants to eliminate cash bail entirely. Milwaukee often sets the tone for the rest of Wisconsin and we cannot allow that tone to be one of violence, homicide, and drugs. It’s appalling that families are leaving playgrounds unused for fear of stray bullets striking their kids. No family should have to live this way. Public safety is on the ballot and it’s time to send a prosecutor, not a politician to be our “Top Cop.”
Freeman: What will you do to address reckless driving and car thefts in the state?
Kaul: We need to ensure that local law enforcement and others who make our communities safer have the resources they need. The criminal justice system in Wisconsin has been underfunded for decades, and, throughout my time as attorney general, I have supported additional funding for the justice system. While some notable progress has been made on this issue in the last four years, including the addition of dozens of assistant DA positions across the state and an increase in funding for law enforcement training, much more needs to be done. In both my Safer Wisconsin plan and my crime-fighting budget for DOJ for the next state budget, I have proposed significant investments in public safety. I also support increasing shared revenue so local governments are better able to fund local law enforcement and other critical services.
Toney: We need more cops on the streets, more aggressive laws to hold these criminals accountable, and more judicial resources to see swifter consequences for those causing chaos on our roadways. Gov. Evers must also immediately make public safety a priority and release COVID funds to local law enforcement and Milwaukee to add more cops and judicial resources to fight this rash of vehicle thefts and lawlessness on our streets. This will speed up our backlogged court system providing accountability and deterring future crime. The governor must also work with the legislature to provide police agencies the resources needed to pay the salary of new recruits while they attend the police academy and the cost of training to address the recruitment and retention challenges law enforcement face across Wisconsin.
Freeman: What will you do to address the fentanyl and opioid crisis?
Kaul: We must fight this epidemic through accountability, treatment, and prevention. The hundreds of millions of dollars that have been secured from opioid companies will bolster work being done in communities across the state, and we must keep working to get accountability — and to recover funds that can help fight the epidemic— from other companies that engaged in unlawful conduct that contributed to the epidemic. We also must continue making it a priority to dismantle drug trafficking operations and put drug dealers behind bars.
Increasing access to treatment for substance use disorder will help with the fight against the opioid crisis as well. I support expanding the Treatment Alternatives and Diversion program and expanding Medicaid so more Wisconsinites will have access to the health care they need. In addition, we must continue to support prevention efforts, such as the collaborative effort by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Wisconsin Department of Justice to provide information to the public to help reduce the harm from opioids and the Drug Take Back program, in which Wisconsin has consistently been a national leader.
Toney: I will join or file any federal lawsuits necessary to force the Biden administration to enforce our immigration laws. I have sat across from too many parents that have buried their child from a drug death. The border crisis is in our streets as fentanyl and methamphetamine are ripping families apart and killing kids at record rates. Ending this epidemic will take a commitment from everyone, and I am proud to partner with sheriffs across Wisconsin to help fight the flow of fentanyl, methamphetamine, and illicit drugs into our state. As a district attorney, I collaborate with law enforcement partners to aggressively investigate and prosecute those that deliver poison to hold them accountable and keep our streets safe. During Josh Kaul’s tenure as attorney general, Wisconsin has endured historic violence and drug deaths as he’s politicized the DOJ and defunded DCI agents and prosecutors, and mismanaged our crime labs.
Freeman: What will you do to address rising crime? Specifically, what will you do to make sure something like the Waukesha Christmas Parade massacre never happens again?
Kaul: We need to take a comprehensive approach to make our communities safer. In addition to strengthening our bail system so that defendants who pose a danger to the community are detained, we must ensure that criminals are held accountable. We also must provide additional funding for public safety, as my Safer Wisconsin plan and my crime-fighting budget for DOJ propose. We need increased funding for law enforcement, mental health programs, and programs for people struggling with addiction, among other things.
Toney: The Waukesha Christmas Parade massacre was a tragedy that should have never happened, and my heart goes out to all the families impacted. Milwaukee crime and violence has spread to surrounding communities, resulting in the horrific events at the Waukesha Christmas Parade. This is why I’ve called for the DOJ to obtain original criminal prosecution authority over Milwaukee to prosecute crime the Milwaukee County District Attorney is unable or unwilling to prosecute. Additionally, as previously indicated, we must address the cash bail laws to ensure violent criminals remain in custody during the pendency of their cases. As the son of a cop, I will enforce the rule of law and criminals will be held accountable.
For more coverage of the Nov. 8 statewide general election, click here.